Car security advice and tips

Car security

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), cases of vehicle-related crimes in England and Wales have significantly declined over the past few decades. While this is comforting news for car owners and a broad recognition of the improved security measures included as standard in new vehicles, we should remember that car thieves have not stopped operating.

It is therefore important not to become casual about vehicle security and run the risk of becoming a crime statistic ourselves. With that in mind, the following points are our top recommendations for improving car security.

Car security

1. Lock your car

This advice may seem obvious but ONS crime figures show that car owners consistently forget to apply this most basic security feature. Almost half of all vehicle-related thefts are because thieves had gained access through an unlocked door.

Get in the habit of always locking up, even if you will only be away from the car for a few seconds. Don’t solely rely on a quick press of the key fob either: check for audible or visual signals that the car has actually locked before you walk away. And if your car has door mirrors that can automatically fold in when the car is locked, be sure to activate this feature – thieves recognise it is a clear visual sign of a locked car.

2. Keep valuables out of sight

Opportunist thieves are often looking for easy-to-grab valuables that have been left on display. Police report that items such as jewellery, bags, purses and wallets, cash, credit cards, clothes and documents are the most commonly stolen in vehicle-related crimes.

Reduce this risk by stashing valuables out of sight, such as in the glove box or boot. Better still, take those items away with you. And if you’re going to leave the car for a longer period of time, consider clearing the boot entirely and removing the parcel shelf or load cover to show thieves that there is nothing to steal.

3. Be mindful of signals

Many modern cars are equipped with a keyless entry and start system – a convenience which sends a constant signal from the key fob in order to unlock the vehicle’s doors and de-activate the immobiliser as you approach. Although it is possible for tech-savvy thieves with special equipment to hijack this signal, they must be in close proximity to the key or vehicle.

So if you doubt the intentions of anybody in the immediate vicinity of your vehicle, wait for them to leave before approaching the car. Better still, whenever you are not driving, block the signal from the key by keeping it in a metal box or Faraday pouch. This is equally important at home as thieves can use a ‘daisy chain’ of receivers to relay the signal from the key (which is probably kept near the front door) to open the car.

4. Secure your port

Every new car sold in the UK since 2003 has been equipped with an on-board diagnostic port. Abbreviated to OBD, this port is a computer connection that allows the car to communicate messages about its mechanical health to an authorised technician. Unfortunately, thieves have discovered that with special equipment they can use this OBD port to programme blank keys to work with the car.

For this reason, some owners choose to secure their OBD port with an aftermarket lock. Typically, this can either be a lockable metal box that covers the port itself, or an electronic lock that works alongside the original immobiliser to disable the port when the ignition is off.

Car security

5. Protect your cat

Your catalytic converter, that is. The ‘cat’ forms part of your car’s emissions control system and cleans exhaust gases before they are expelled through the tailpipe. Unfortunately, the precious metals inside the cat that help to neutralise these passing gases are exactly that – precious. Which means that the catalytic converter itself has become a target for thieves.

Toyota has taken action to deter thieves by issuing thousands of SmartWater invisible marking kits to local initiatives, as well as providing Toyota customers with a free Smartwater forensic marking service at their local centre. Toyota has also developed a mechanical locking device to deter would-be thieves. These measures are explained in more detail in our dedicated article on catalytic converter theft.

6. Park with care

Thieves do not like performing in front of an audience, so the place where you park has a bearing on the vehicle’s vulnerability. ONS statistics show that the likelihood of experiencing a car-related crime is much lower in busy, town centre parking areas. This is especially true when car parks are well-lit and have manned or CCTV security coverage.

Similarly, the time at which you park your car has a bearing on its security. Most instances of car-related crimes occur in the early hours of the morning, so avoid leaving in your car in a dark, unfamiliar area overnight.

Car security

7. Extra security

Modern vehicles invariably come with a high level of built-in security – the specific features of which are usually designed to react in the event of an incident. But there are simple things you can do to actively dissuade a thief from pursuing an attack on your car. These precautions include:

The use of a brightly coloured mechanical device locked across the steering wheel, gear lever or clutch pedal will provide an excellent visual deterrent to a would-be thief. A well-known steering wheel ‘crook lock’ “Stop Lock Pro Elite” is what Toyota would advise fitting to models, particularly RAV4, Hilux, Highlander, Yaris Cross, Toyota C-HR, Land Cruiser, Corolla, GR Supra, GR Yaris and GR86 (however other brands of steering wheel locks are available to purchase should you wish).

We may be living in a digital age but nothing will persuade an opportunist to leave your car alone more effectively than a good old-fashioned piece of ironmongery. Or for that matter, a snarling dog.

More information on preventing car crime can be found by visiting the Police UK website – www.police.uk – and by searching ‘car crime’.

NB: Details were correct at the time and date of publication

139 comments

  1. Had my car stolen last Tuesday after owning it for 2 years not knowing about this CAN hack. Reading through the comments, it’s becoming ridiculous having a security system on the car that is not fit for purpose. Aside from being fobbed off to the Toyota service there’s nothing useful in Toyota’s response to the comments so far. Very disappointing

    1. Hi JC,
      We are sorry to hear your Toyota has been stolen.
      We are continuously striving to improve our vehicles and whilst, regrettably we cannot guarantee that these efforts will eliminate all criminal activity and theft, our design team will continue to work with the police and insurers to develop technology and components to try to prevent vehicle crime.
      Once again, we can only apologise for the distress this must have caused.
      Please let us know if there is anything else that we can do to assist you at this time.
      Thank you.

      1. This is an awful response from Toyota. Solutions are being advocated by threat detection specialists who have stated Toyota, amongst other manufacturers, are silent on the issue. Look at Ken Tindell’s research on this and action it

  2. My Rav4 was stolen for the second time. I had a steering wheel lock fitted, and the thieves simply cut through the steering wheel to pull the lock off. Police said the only way to secure was to use a ghost immobiliser.

    Now I am paying excess for the insurers so totally down £1,500 just for excess fees for 2 repairs, on top of the escalating insurance fees I need to pay to insure Toyota cars which have no security. I thought Land Rovers were the most unsecure vehicles, but Toyota is up there with them. Soon Toyota Rav 4 will be uninsurable for the same reasons.

    1. Hi Nathan,
      We are so sorry to hear that you have been a victim of horrible crime.
      We are continuously striving to improve our vehicles and whilst, regrettably we cannot guarantee that these efforts will eliminate all criminal activity and theft. We are working closely with the authorities to raise awareness of this crime as well as our technical teams, both here and with Toyota Motor Europe and our insurance experts to look at ways to further protect our vehicles and to develop technology and components to try to prevent vehicle thefts.
      If there is anything else we can assist you with at this time, please let us know.
      Thanks.

      1. I think everyone is aware of stolen cars, but Toyota should warn customers when they buy a Rav4 that they are the 5th most stolen car, with Lexus RX being the no 1 stolen car in Britain (2,3,4 are Range Rovers).

        https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13060215/Britain-stolen-cars-Interactive-graphic-targeted-thieves-list-Lexus-RX-Range-Rover.html

        Toyota should install immobilisers free of charge to customers as the Can bus attack opens the car in less than a few seconds. Steering wheel locks are simply removed by cutting the steering wheel in 30 seconds ( I have video proof).

        Land Rover now have to provide insurance for car owners as they are uninsurable. Toyota should provide insurance also, as insurance premiums are only going up due to the lack of security in Toyota/Lexus.

        I feel the Rav4 I bought was mis-sold to me, and will be contacting the Motor Ombudsman, and recommend other owners with stolen cars to contact Motor Ombudsman also, as Toyota has simply failed to bring security up to standard.

  3. Hi
    As an owner of a new RAV4, and like many others, I have recently become aware of the serious CAN injection vulnerability. Looking at the comments I see only platitude responses from Toyota with no meaningful help offered. So Toyota when are you going to fix the issue? I’m on my fifth Toyota but its likely to be the last at this rate.

    And to my fellow owners. Has anyone in the UK managed to get their Toyota dealership service centre to fit (for payment or otherwise) an additional immobilizer be it a Ghost or other. And a confirmation regarding loss of warranty if one has one fitted.

    1. For what’s its worth Stephen Eagell Toyota fitted metal CAN-BUS protection plates for me this week behind each headlight. £70.

  4. Is it true that insurers are refusing to provide insurance for Land Cruisers now? I had my Rav4 stolen for the second time. I had a steering wheel lock attached which was removed by cutting through the steering wheel. When I took the car to my local Toyota dealer, the engineer who took my keys said he went to a conference recently where they said insurers will no longer insure Land Cruisers.

    Also, Kia and Hyundai car owners who had their vehicles stolen will receive notices next week allowing them to claim their piece of a $145 million settlement. Toyota would best fix the issue before Toyota has a class action suit against them…
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2024/02/28/kia-theft-settlement-hyundai-owners/72775295007/

    1. Hi Nathan,
      We can only apologise that you have been affected by this horrible crime.
      Unfortunately, we cannot comment on the decisions made by third party insurance companies.
      Thanks.

    2. We have had a 2020 Landcrusier stolen a week ago. Now car less awaiting insurance valuation. At no point although our vehical has been in the main agents 4 times this year did anyone advise any upgrades or additional security that Toyota have apparently released. Toyota claim to work with insurance companies and police forces but our insurance, a major Corporation only had knowledge of Lexus problems and insist on trackers for these models. I wish we had been better informed.

  5. Three people tried to steal my RAV4 this week via the canhead attack method but were disturbed. Having now researched this I am so disappointed by the lack of action that has been taken by Toyota to warn customers at risk and deal with the problem effectively. I am booked in for the plate to be fitted (at my cost) but I am now going to start looking at a different manufacturer for a new car as I have lost faith in Toyota.

    1. Hi Julie, thanks for your comment.

      We’re very sorry to hear that there was a theft attempt made on your RAV4. We are currently working on further security measures that we hope to have available next month. Your local Toyota Centre will happily keep you up to date on the timeline of this.

      Thanks,

      Toyota UK

      1. Any news in regards to the advanced security features?

      2. Hi Rita, thanks for your comment.

        We have no further updates to offer at this time, we are still carrying out ongoing investigations.

        Thanks,

        Toyota UK

  6. if i disable the smart entry and start system in my Yaris Y24 model will this negate the relay attack method Since you have to then use the buttons to unlock the car and hold the key next to the start button.

    also reading the manual it says the key turns off after a while of not being moved but doe not say how long a while is

    1. Hi there, thanks for your comment.

      Yes, disabling the smart entry function on your Yaris will mean that the signal will not be able to be extended by thieves. Keeping your key in a signal blocking faraday pouch will also prevent this, although make sure to keep both the spare and the main key protected.

      Thanks,

      Toyota UK

  7. Had my RAV4 stolen last Tuesday after owning for 3 years, not aware of the CAN bus hack, but this was how the car was stolen from my drive in the middle of the day. The MyToyota app didn’t track the car, contacted the dealer on the day of the theft to see if car could be tracked but they weren’t much help. Car was serviced before Easter by Steven Eagell , but the dealer never mentioned this issue or offered the plates to be fitted. Very disappointed in this situation as communication from Toyota on this issue has been very poor. This car was my 6th Toyota and I cannot believe that I feel this way as this is not how Toyota portrays its values towards its customers giving no support on this issue.

    1. Hi David,thanks for getting in touch.

      We are terribly sorry to hear that you have been affected by this awful crime.
      Please be assured this is a matter that we are taking extremely seriously.
      We are continuously developing technical solutions to make our vehicles more secure and reduce the risk of theft.
      While we understand theft can be highly upsetting, in such instances customers are first and foremost victims of crime.
      Once again, we are really sorry that you have been affected by this horrible crime.

      Thanks,

      Toyota UK

  8. You previously spoke about Toyotas being able to get the enhanced security upgrade, and other countries are having this done to the affected models free of charge, however a statement has not yet been released about the cost for those affected in the UK. Have you decided on a cost for this yet? I read somewhere that the part itself would be free, but my local garage has no knowledge of this. For something which should have been addressed months ago, this is becoming a recurring weekly annoyance.

    1. Hi Lucy,thanks for getting in touch.

      There is no information available on the security enhancement just yet.
      We will provide an update the moment we can communicate more. We thank you for your patience.

      Thanks,

      Toyota UK

      1. What will happen if we pay for this feature and then a decision is made to offer the part for free, can we request for a refund? I want my car protected ASAP and you’re letting us all down by dragging your heels!

      2. Hi Lucy,thank you for the reply.

        We will provide an update the moment we can communicate more including any pricing.

        Thanks,

        Toyota UK

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